Tourism should focus on leisure segment

Despite battling for years with high seasonality in tourism, figures are shifting and could be an indication that the country is establishing itself as a year-round travel destination.

10 February 2020 | Tourism

While there has been a decline in Namibia's business and conference travel sector, the country should focus more on the leisure tourism market.

This was highlighted by the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) as it released its 2019 report on tourism accommodation occupancy statistics.

The statistics for 2019 indicate a mere 1% growth from the previous year.

The overall occupancy enjoyed by registered tourism accommodation establishments last year stood at 53.5%, up from 52.5% in 2018.

The CEO of HAN Gitta Paetzold said the association has been processing tourism accommodation occupancy statistics since 2000, and during the peak of 2016, Namibian tourism accommodation enterprises enjoyed an almost 60% occupancy.

According to Paetzold, although the same occupancy rate has not been reached since then, the current performance is seen as positive, given the remarkable increase in availability on the market through new facilities and the prevalence of unregistered online offerings for accommodation.

Paetzold pointed out that for years Namibia has been battling with high seasonality in tourism with most of the visitors coming to Namibia from July to October.

However, for the first time in 2019, there seems to be a see a slight reverse in this trend, with a remarkable increase of 6% in occupancy during the second quarter (April to June), and a 2% increase in the first quarter.

“Both compensated for the slight decline in occupancy in the traditional high season (July to October). This may be an indication that Namibia is slowly but surely establishing itself as a year-round travel destination,” said Paetzold.

According to the report, leisure travel remains the main purpose of visit of those frequenting hotels, lodges, guesthouses, camps and other accommodation facilities throughout the country.

Occupancy from the leisure travel market increased by some 3% last year.

“This helped compensate a little for the decline in the business and conference sector, which both showed a decline in 2019, a clear indication that organisations and businesses are struggling,” said Paetzold.

According to HAN chairman Shepherd Chinhoi, the decline in business and conference tourism is an indication of struggling businesses and a challenge for foreign direct investment, as it would mean a generally lower appetite of investment in tourism.

“It is therefore all the more important for Namibia to maintain focus on the leisure tourism segment, as key contributor to income generation and growth in the tourism sector.”

Key leisure travel markets for Namibia remain Central Europe, with Germany, Austria and Switzerland again the highest, representing almost 30% of all occupancies, with an additional 12% from the Benelux, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

The South African market filled some 8% of the accommodation availed through HAN members, while Namibians are also showing increasing appetite for travel in their country, with over 26% of rooms occupied by Namibians last year, according to HAN.

According to Paetzold, while the Namibian tourism industry has shown steady performance over the past years, HAN and its members are fully aware of the volatile and heavily competitive environment tourism in general operates in.

“The recent outbreak of the coronavirus in China and its effects on the international travel sector is case in point of how fast the tourism industry can be impacted and it is vital that everyone keeps focus on facts to ensure that we do not fall victim of false information and panic reactions, which could be detrimental to tourism.”

Paetzold added that the association is also delighted about the fact that a 30% increase in submission of occupancy reports could be achieved from its members during 2019.

According to her, this makes the HAN tourism accommodation report even more representative of the status quo of the travel and leisure industry in Namibia.

Paetzold said that HAN and its members remain committed to build on the successes achieved and to ensure that Namibia keeps on offering unique and attractive reasons to visit this part of the world.

“Quality assurance, service excellence and safety are some key elements to success, but what attracts travellers even more are new, unique and exciting experiences, and HAN is proud to reveal that 2020 will see the tourism industry 'unlocking new horizons' for tourism and travellers out there.” Meanwhile, the HAN Congress 2020 in June will focus on the scope and potential of developing the Tsau //Khaeb National Park in southern Namibia.

Together with the tourism ministry and the Namibia Tourism Board, the association will look at ways to carefully open up the former Sperrgebiet for some very special and unique tourism experiences, allowing unforgettable experiences within an area, untouched for over a century, and rich in fauna and history.

ELLANIE SMIT

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